The Philadelphia 76ers have now turned themselves into Andrew Bynum's team after last week's big trade. Now Sixers fans like myself are hyping up the former Los Angeles Lakers center as the first legitimate superstar in Philadelphia since Allen Iverson. That may be true when he's on the court, yet Bynum and the Sixers have to hope he actually stays there.
The last time the Sixers signed a big name star away from Los Angeles, they ignored Elton Brand's injury history and paid for it. Now Philadelphia is crossing its fingers that Bynum won't get hurt like he often did with the Lakers, although he is taking measures to keep his knees intact.
The new Sixer is heading off to Germany in September for a special knee procedure, like the one that former teammate Kobe Bryant had to clear his knees last year. While Bynum has had surgery on both knees before, they are supposedly okay now and this non-invasive procedure is just a precaution.
For Philadelphia's sakes, it needs to be just a precaution and it needs to have the same benefits for Bynum that it did for Bryant. The Sixers are officially on the NBA's radar again with an actual A-list player on board, yet it will be a very public failure for them if Bynum can't last a full 82 games.
The biggest drawbacks he has are his injuries and his attitude, although they were both under control last year and it helped give him his best season ever. Yet was it just a one-year aberration, or a real sign of things to come for the rest of his career? Since Bynum will go into free agency next year, he has plenty of motivation to keep healthy and on the up and up, which should help the Sixers decide if he's worth the long term risk.
Brand barely played in his final season with the Los Angeles Clippers before the Sixers took him away, figuring he'd be at full strength when he arrived. Yet he wasn't and he stumbled through the next four years as a result. Even if Bynum stays on his feet next season and then gets a long term deal from Philadelphia, the Sixers still have to hold their breath.
It's nothing new for a Philadelphia team to put their hopes and dreams on injury prone players, since the Eagles do it with Michael Vick, the Phillies did it with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley and the Flyers may have to do it with Claude Giroux. But if Bynum's injury prone days are nearing an end, the Sixers can breathe easy and hype him up as the future of the franchise after all - although one bad slipup is all it takes to throw a wrench into things.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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